March 7, 2024

Q&A with TusPark’s Wei Meng on Life Sciences and Operational Real Estate

Goodwin Partner Raymond Fang talks with TusPark’s head of UK innovation and real estate, Wei Meng, about building life sciences ecosystems and the operational nature of real estate in the sector. 

Tell me about TusPark, its journey in the UK, and your role at the company. 

TusPark is a global investor, developer, and operator in science- and technology-related real estate, as well as an investor in innovative businesses. TusPark has developed and operated more than 300 science cities, science parks, and incubators worldwide. Additionally, TusPark has incubated more than 10,000 companies, of which 70 have gone public. 

TusPark entered the UK market in 2017 following a partnership with Trinity College (University of Cambridge) to rejuvenate the world-renowned Cambridge Science Park. TusPark invested £200 million in the project and redeveloped the front of the science park into five new state-of-the-art buildings, with a portion dedicated to lab space. One of these buildings has been designated as a bio-innovation centre, the first of its kind in the Cambridge Science Park. Collaborating with Trinity College and various functions of the University of Cambridge, TusPark has grown the Bio-Innovation Centre into a powerhouse for life sciences in Cambridge. Thus far, the tenants have collectively raised more than £150 million. Companies typically enter in teams of three or four and often move out of the building at a size 10 times larger. Even during COVID, amidst a tight fundraising environment, TusPark consistently witnessed successful tenant growth, ultimately leading them to seek larger premises with our blessing. 

We also collaborate with local and national brands in the UK to incubate companies in sectors such as life sciences, deep technology, and green technology. We believe that a thriving community in these sectors is crucial for revitalizing the UK as a destination for global innovation. 

I hold a PhD in chemistry from the University of Cambridge. I lead TusPark’s real estate business unit in the UK and am also a partner in our UK venture capital fund. I bring a wealth of expertise, both in real estate and in understanding the science that underpins the success of our tenants and the companies we support. 

Do you view life sciences as an “operational real estate” asset class? 

Life sciences is a specialist asset class that is more operational than other real estate asset classes, and that is difficult for real estate investors to access without the expertise. 

Astute management at the development phase is key. This can involve designing a space that has the right specs considering (1) the end user’s sector (and factors such as the location, height, and design of the building), and (2) its funding stage. For instance, pre-Series A companies require incubator space with access to full amenities, while Series A-funded companies require more space but still benefit from some services that are capital intensive, such as access to shared technical equipment or conference facilities. 

Astute management at the operational phase is also key. This involves attracting and maintaining the right mix of tenants and providing the right blend of amenities to support innovation and growth. 

Do you see opportunities in the UK outside the “Golden Triangle” of London, Cambridge, and Oxford?

Absolutely, and we’ve demonstrated this by investing in the north of England, where we believe there are ample growth opportunities. For example, TusPark Newcastle, our most recent incubator, which works in partnership with Barclays Eagle Labs, has become the go-to destination for innovative new businesses in the north of England. 

In your view, what factors contribute to a successful and vibrant life sciences ecosystem? 

We think the following four factors are important, and we emphasize them when we make investments around the world:

  • Stability: a stable legal and regulatory environment with high levels of economic prosperity
  • Talent: access to a highly skilled and educated workforce 
  • Capital: availability of smart and patient capital (which TusPark’s investment arm can also provide)
  • Integration: between public and private sectors and among hospitals, universities, research institutions, and enterprises 

How does TusPark support innovation in the UK, and how does it add value to the evolving needs and funding stages of tenants over time?

The three pillars of our business are space, venture capital, and business support. We support innovation in the UK by providing quality space that suits the demands of early-stage life science and deep tech companies. Additionally, we offer patient capital to fuel the growth of innovative enterprises. We collaborate with universities, research institutions, capital partners, and large corporations to create an integrated environment that is friendly and helpful for early-stage businesses. We connect the dots by finding them funding and business-expansion opportunities, including via our extensive global network.